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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Race, labour, and the postmodern plantation : Jamaican migrant farmworkers in Canada's Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program Hjalmarson, Kirsten Elise


This ethnographic thesis project critically examines the experiences of Jamaican migrant farmworkers employed in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia via the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP). First introduced in 1966, the SAWP is the oldest and longest-standing labour migration regime in Canada and the principal agricultural stream of the federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Drawing upon the salient work of numerous activists and scholars who have contended that the SAWP facilitates a form of transnational indentureship by bonding migrant workers to their employers, I argue that the SAWP farm site constitutes a peculiar and totalizing institution that capitalizes on the unfreedom of black labour. I apply critical race theory to situate workers’ experiences of surveillance, immobilization, and hyper-exploitation in addition to their characterization of farm life as “prison life” within a postslavery context. I conclude that only by acknowledging the role of racism and its relationship to the border can we ever hope to truly achieve justice for migrant farmworkers in Canada.

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